By Emily Tess Katz
V.A. Shiva Ayyadurai was 14 years old when he developed the technology we now know as email. But despite having received “official recognition” of his creation by the U.S. government, some still question whether he was the veritable founder.
Ayyadurai’s former colleague Robert Field explained the discrepancy and defended Ayyadurai in a blog on The Huffington Post. According to Field, “multi-billion dollar defense company” Raytheon BBN Technologies generated “their entire brand … based on claims of having ‘invented email,'” then unleashed a PR campaign to “discredit email’s origins” as well as Shiva’s claim to having invented it.
Ayyadurai explained in a HuffPost Live interview on Thursday that he thinks these allegations stem from people who are both economically and racially prejudiced.
“The reality is this: in 1978, there was a 14-year-old boy and he was the first to create electronic office system. He called it email, a term that had never been used before, and then he went and got official recognition by the U.S. government,” he told host Caroline Modarressy-Tehrani, referring to himself.
Ayyadurai said his modest background prevented him from getting the recognition he deserved.
“After that took place, you have a sense of disbelief among people that comes from not so much the technology issue, but there’s a lot of economic issues associated here,” he continued. “[The discovery] wasn’t done at MIT; it wasn’t done at the military; it wasn’t done at a big institution. It was done in Newark, NJ, one of the poorest cities in the United States. It was done by a dark-skinned immigrant kid, 14 years old.”
The creation of email falls under the pretext of the “American dream,” Ayyadurai explained, and he feels that those who challenge him as the inventor are afraid of upward mobility and change.
“The narrative there is what changes and shocks certain people who want to control the narrative that innovation can only take place under their bastions,” he said. “The truth is that the American dream is really about [the fact that] innovation can take place anytime, by anybody.”
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